Level 3 Learnings and Their Applications

by Dan Walsh

Yesterday’s post discussed what I learned from previous behaviour changes. Today I will distill and utilize these learnings to create a plan of attack for areas of my life which I would like to improve. These areas include learning conversational French, becoming a better writer, growing my network, taking up Judo again,

My distilled learnings, in no particular order, are as follows:

  1. I must have purity of intent. Pursuing Judo for the black belt isn’t good motivation for me. I must practice Judo only because I like the activity of Judo. I shouldn’t pursue an activity if I don’t like it, even if the potential reward is substantial. I will never get to the reward if I don’t enjoy the practice.
  2. Curiosity, enjoyment, or a vague resonance with an idea is enough justification for me to pursue it. In fact, I think having only a vague compass bearing of where I’m going is best for me. Anything more concrete leads to list-writing, projections, procrastination, stress, and ultimately self-sabotage.
  3. Avoiding hard goals and projections also removes the demotivating factor of thinking about the endless amount of time that it will take to achieve my goal. This enables me to just show up and work at it.
  4. While I am sensitive to external validation, I am ultimately motivated by internal needs like curiosity. External validation clouds real motivations. Because of this, I should refrain from idly discussing my pursuits. By keeping them private, I help ensure their success.
  5. Embarrassment or otherwise “looking like an idiot” is hugely demotivating for me. I will find excuses to avoid looking like I don’t know what I’m doing. All growth exists in the unknown, so I must embrace this anxiety. I try to reframe this feeling as a sign of growth, and have found it helpful to remind myself that I am a beginner. Completely giving in to my novice status removes a lot of this anxiety and gives me permission to be bad, ask questions, make mistakes, and otherwise look like an idiot.
  6. Part of admitting my novice status is fully embracing fundamentals before advancing. I didn’t fully learn the fundamentals of Judo before spending a majority of my time on complex throws. In contrast, I spent a lot of time breaking down the freestyle swimming stroke into its constituent parts before I put them all together into one move.
  7. I’m very motivated by constant progress. Most people are.
  8. Mentors, tutors, and coaches are insanely helpful and motivating. They are a corrective force that creates constant improvement by identifying areas of weakness and how to improve. I used to always try to teach myself everything, but this was a mistake and resulted in a lot of wasted time.
  9. Coaches are indispensable, but so is independent practice. I need time to experiment, play around, and come back to my trainer with questions and specific areas on which I would like to focus.
  10. This independent practice should be inspired by a wider web of knowledge. Applying the rules of magic and misdirection to marketing or NLP techniques to the mechanics of a Judo resonate with my need for creativity, and underscore the importance of my effort by connecting it to the world at large.
  11. Constant, objective feedback keeps me improving and motivated. I need this feedback to be rapid so I can quickly correct mistakes, and it needs to be objective. If I care too much about who the feedback is coming from, then I’ll fall into my patterns of trying to gain external validation by pleasing that person. This has a negative impact on my development.
  12. Plan for execution. This is a doozy. I can’t grow unless I set aside time to execute. It should be a block of time when nothing conflicts, and it should be my top priority. It should also be in tune with my biological rhythms, or I will make excuses to not execute. I write better in the morning, so I schedule an hour of writing every morning.

Ok, so it will be tricky to apply all of these to everything I want to accomplish, but the top lessons are to be properly motivated, get a coach, create constant objective feedback, and schedule time to execute.

My French has always suffered because I pursued it to be cool, and because I never scheduled a solid time to practice. I don’t want to look cool anymore. I actually want to live in Paris for a spell, and I’ve become increasingly curious about the language learning process. I am satisfied that I have proper motivations, so now I just need to schedule time. Starting December 1st, I will practice my French everyday for 30 minutes via audio lesson as soon as I wake up. The lessons – and my mistakes – will provide objective feedback, and the the instructor will be my stand-in coach. I could take this up a level by joining a group or hiring a tutor. That will probably be the next step.

I want to be a better writer for many reasons, chief among them is to clarify all the thought rolling around in my head. I have already committed an hour every morning to write one post per day on this blog. I start at 7am and finish by 8. If I need more time I can revisit the post before bed. I am in the process of hiring an editor who will provide feedback and identify areas for immediate improvement.

I want to grow my network so that I can help others through connections. Knowing more people also creates bonus luck points and I’m a big fan of serendipity. I have already committed to reaching out to one new and interesting person everyday. I haven’t quite kept that commitment, but I’m close. My feedback loop is how many and how well these new people respond. This borderlines on subjective feedback, but with enough attempts each email becomes an objective data point instead of potential rejection. I don’t have a coach yet. I’m sure someone knows these skills and could guide me, but this is one of those soft skills that supplement the skills people actually teach. Maybe I can find an author who has written about this and bug them to help me out.

I eventually stopped practicing Judo because I was in it for the wrong reasons. I didn’t see it as a game, I wasn’t very competitive at the time, and I considered injuries as a failure instead of part of the territory. I want to take up Judo again because I see it as an area to test my physical and mental mettle. I need something to strive for, and I think going into it with this mindset will make it more fun. Judo comes with an instructor, but I didn’t like the way the class was taught. Fundamentals weren’t drilled enough and practice was different everyday which made it hard to gauge progress. Because of this, I will only return to my old dojo if they can accommodate my learning style. If they cannot, I will seek another dojo, or even switch to a different martial art if they can offer the training I’m looking for.

I will update with my progress on these four fronts as they become available.